Professor Stephen Hawking joins academic boycott of Israel in solidarity with Palestinians (Updated)

LIVE BLOG |  Continuously updated below the initial article

Prof. Stephen Hawking. Photo: Featureflash /

By The Guardian at RawStory| Tuesday, May 7, 2013 21:55 EDT

Professor Stephen Hawking is backing the academic boycott of Israel by pulling out of a conference hosted by Israeli president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem as a protest at Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

Hawking, 71, the world-renowned theoretical physicist and Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, had accepted an invitation to headline the fifth annual president’s conference, Facing Tomorrow, in June, which features major international personalities, attracts thousands of participants and this year will celebrate Peres’s 90th birthday.

Hawking is in very poor health, but last week he wrote a brief letter to the Israeli president to say he had changed his mind. He has not announced his decision publicly, but a statement published by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine with Hawking’s approval described it as “his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there”.

Hawking’s decision marks another victory in the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions targeting Israeli academic institutions.

In April the Teachers’ Union of Ireland became the first lecturers’ association in Europe to call for an academic boycott of Israel, and in the United States members of the Association for Asian American Studies voted to support a boycott, the first national academic group to do so.

In the four weeks since Hawking’s participation in the Jerusalem event was announced, he has been bombarded with messages from Britain and abroad as part of an intense campaign by boycott supporters trying to persuade him to change his mind. In the end, Hawking told friends, he decided to follow the advice of Palestinian colleagues who unanimously agreed that he should not attend.

By participating in the boycott, Hawking joins a small but growing list of British personalities who have turned down invitations to visit Israel, including Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, Brian Eno, Annie Lennox and Mike Leigh.

However, many artists, writers and academics have defied and even denounced the boycott, calling it ineffective and selective. Ian McEwan, who was awarded the Jerusalem Prize in 2011, responded to critics by saying: “If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed … It’s not great if everyone stops talking.”

Hawking has visited Israel four times in the past. Most recently, in 2006, he delivered public lectures at Israeli and Palestinian universities as the guest of the British Embassy in Tel Aviv. At the time, he said he was “looking forward to coming out to Israel and the Palestinian territories and excited about meeting both Israeli and Palestinian scientists”.

Since then, his attitude to Israel appears to have hardened. In 2009, Hawking denounced Israel’s three-week attack on Gaza, telling Riz Khan on Al-Jazeera that Israel’s response to rocket fire from Gaza was “plain out of proportion … The situation is like that of South Africa before 1990 and cannot continue.”

The office of President Peres, which has not yet announced Hawking’s withdrawal, did not respond to requests for comment. Hawking’s name has been removed from the speakers listed on the official website.

The Denver Post is covering the next:

Israel boycott: Stephen Hawking refuses to attend Jerusalem conference

Stephen Hawking, University of Cambridge physicist, is the latest UK professor to join a boycott of Israel. On Tuesday, he announced he would not attend a conference in Jerusalem in support of the Palestinians. (Chip Somodevilla/AFP/Getty Images)

Stephen Hawking, University of Cambridge physicist, is the latest UK professor to join a boycott of Israel. On Tuesday, he announced he would not attend a conference in Jerusalem in support of the Palestinians. (Chip Somodevilla/AFP/Getty Images)

Cambridge professor and world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking made a surprise move Tuesday announcing that he would boycott an Israeli ideas conference hosted by president Shimon Peres.

Hawking, 71, a theoretical physicist and math professor, wrote a letter to the Israeli president saying that he hadchanged his mind about headlining the Facing Tomorrow conference.

The letter was not public but a  by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine on its website said “his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there”.

This is not the first time Hawking has commented on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

The Week reported that Hawking told Al Jazeera in 2009 that Israel needed to engage with Hamas.

“If Israel wants peace, it will have to talk to Hamas, like Britain did with the IRA. Hamas are the democratically elected leaders of the Palestinian people, and cannot be ignored,” he was quoted as saying.

The organizers of the conference said the move was “outrageous and unwarranted.”

“Israel is a democracy in which everyone can voice their opinions, whatever they may be. Boycotting is not compatible with open demcratic dialogue,” said Israel Maimon, the conference chairman.

The Facing Tomorrow conference attracts famous speakers and celebrities and thousands of participants each year.

This year’s conference in Jerusalem would also mark the 90th birthday of president Peres.

It looks like he’ll have one less guest at his party.


More in Media

In the meanwhile, hasbara is doing utmost efforts to curb the cancelation. Always crying anything is anti-semitic: the hasbara outlets now claim the cancelation was due to ‘health-issues’.
That’s anti-quadriplegic.
Paralyzed people have a nerve issue. Not a brain issue!

Cartoon by @CarlosLatuff

Cartoon by @CarlosLatuff

Some examples how “Israel” reacts on the BDS

Some more live updates:

  • May 8, 2013 | Stephen Hawking’s message to Israeli elites: The occupation has a price – 972 Magazine
  • May 8, 2013 | Stephen Hawking Israel Boycott: 7 Celebrities Who’ve Done It Too – Hyacinth Mascarenhas, Policymic
  • May 8, 2013 | Stephen Hawking ‘backs Israel boycott’ – Al Jazeera
  • May 8, 2013 | Stephen Hawking supports academic boycott of Israel – Jews for Justice for Palestinians
  • May 8, 2013 | Backing the Israel boycott: British physicist Stephen Hawking pulls out of June event – Al Bawaba
  • May 9, 2013 | Targeting Hawking and Hoffman: Right-wing ‘pro-Israel’ advocacy as hate speech – NaharNet
  • May 8, 2013 | A Brief History Of Hawking’s Boycott – The Daily Beast
  • May 8, 2013 | Stephen Hawking decision “could be a breakthrough moment for the anti-Israel boycott movement” – Haaretz
  • May 8, 2013 | Prof.  Hawking subjected to abusive Facebook message mocking physical disability for boycott of Israeli conference – Telegraph – UK
  • May 9, 2013 | Outrage over disgusting ‘cripple Stephen Hawking’ jokes after he joins boycott of Israel – Express UK
  • May 9, 2013 | Famed physicist Stephen Hawking joins Israel boycott – Russia Today
  • May 9, 2013 | Five reasons why Hawking is right to boycott – Ben White aka @Benabyad
  • May 9, 2013 | Stephen Hawking’s support for the boycott of Israel is a turning point  by @AliAbunimah – guardian
  • May 9, 2013 | Is Stephen Hawking right to boycott Israel? Author/activist Ben White  debates ex-Netanyahu adviser Tzahi Gavrieli – Huffington Post
  • May 9, 2013 | Techwashing: Hasbara group strikes back after Hawking boycott – 972 Magazine
  • May 9, 2013 | Netanyahu: Hawking an idiot. Israel an “isle of peace and reason.” – Jerusalem Post
  • May 9, 2013 |Israeli activists tell Hawking to yank his Intel chips over Palestine – Register
  • May 10, 2013 | Dershowitz calls Hawking an ‘ignoramus,’ a ‘lemming,’ and likely an anti-Semite – Mondoweiss
  • May 10, 2013 | Chomsky helped lobby Stephen Hawking to stage Israel boycott – guardian
  • May 11, 2013 | Stephen Hawking is right, it’s time to end int. support for Israeli impunity – by Rafeef Ziadah

Video: Stephen Hawkingon Al-Jazeera- in 2009

Hawking: “A people under occupation will continue to resist any way it can…”

All Israeli Attacks Timeline | All Israeli cease Fire Violations – Timeline

Still live in fairy-tale-land about Israel? Time to wake up: The Map of the “Greater Israel” even is hammered on the currency:

All facts at Storify continuously updated. Read what Israeli ‘leaders’ have said and done even before (peace) talks and how their actions contradict the reality and ugly facts which they try to hide from you:

You can forget all details. Save yourself time. It is only about Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

Israel. Not looking for Peace. Nor Talks. But this…

The facts. Mainly Israeli sources. Continuously updated

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